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Oklahoma governor's office under fire for open records policy

FOI Oklahoma Inc the latest to accuse Gov. Fallin and her advisers of redefining state's Open Records Act. Fallin spokesman said the office is working to respond to unprecedented records requests.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: December 7, 2012

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office has come under criticism from a state nonprofit that works to protect access to government records.

A statement by Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, about withholding emails relating to intergovernmental deliberations is “disappointing” and “puzzling,” Lindel Hutson, the president of FOI Oklahoma wrote in a letter to the governor on Wednesday.

“Your legal advisers have claimed that records requested by various media outlets are protected by privileges that far exceed what the state Legislature and the state Supreme Court have granted government officials,” wrote Hutson, retired bureau chief for The Associated Press in Oklahoma.

Citing executive privilege and attorney-client privilege, Mullins told The Oklahoman in November that releasing electronic communications that pertain to state deliberations on public policy decisions could hurt policymakers' abilities to have productive internal discussions.

His remarks came in response to a records request filed by the newspaper for emails that could shed light on how Fallin decided to create a state health insurance exchange and then later changed her mind.

In a meeting with The Oklahoman's management Thursday, Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, said the governor's office is working to compile “hundreds of thousands” of emails that fall under the newspaper's records request.

The request, which asks for six months of emails relating to the development of a state health care exchange, will include more documents than all other records requests combined filed at Fallin's office since she began her term in 2010, Weintz said.

The email records will be reviewed individually by Fallin's legal advisers, but the governor will have final say as to which documents will be considered privileged and which will be opened for review, he said.

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